An Open Letter to the City Council of San Buenaventura:
Article apeared at Ojai and Ventura Voice:
For the reasons and facts stated below, I respectfully request that the present City Council of San Buenaventura open an independent and impartial criminal investigation into the alleged "conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud and oppression" used by the City Parks Supervisor Jerry Revard, retired, to force the independent city vendor Richard Soto of IST Laboratories (ground penetrating radar contractor) to submit a "Ground Penetrating Report" to the City of San Buenaventura and the general public at-large that ONLY concluded that there are "NO bodies buried beneath the cemetery parking lot" of Cemetery Memorial Park (aka St. Mary's Cemetery).
This "open letter to the City Council of San Buenaventura" is in general, based on two telephone conversations I had with Mr. Richard Soto of IST Laboratories, Inc. who was contracted by the City of San Buenaventura to perform the ground penetrating radar scan on the western parking lot of the St. Mary's Cemetery and supplied the City with his findings by submitting his, 'Parking Lot GPR Report, October 05, 2005,' (http://restorestmarys.org/Articles/IST Lab GPR scan.html)
From the "2001 City Burial List" and the "1901 St. Mary's Cemetery Plot Plan," both supplied to me by the City Clerk's Office, I had determined that there are seven people buried beneath the cemetery parking lot (http://restorestmarys.org/Catholic Cemetery.html).
I requested exhumation documentation from the same Clerk's Office in regards to the seven people buried beneath the parking lot. The Clerk's Office responded by saying that they have no documentation as to these people being exhumed. It is fair to say that these people are still buried beneath the parking lot.
After Mr. Soto made his report public, October 05, 2005, I sought another 'ground penetrating radar company' to scan the parking lot, believing that Mr. Soto's report was mistaken and inconclusive. I contacted 'Sub-Surface Surveys,' Mr. Pol Mairesse, 215 S. Highway 101, #203, Solana Beach, CA 92075, 858-481-8949, cell 619-247-3331. Mr. Mairesse traveled from San Diego to San Buenaventura and spent two days scanning the entire cemetery parking lot, the area just south of the cemetery parking lot and the area just to the east of the cemetery parking lot all at no charge to me or the City. The actual grave locations beneath the parking lot were surveyed and marked by a licensed survey contractor, William L. Meagher Surveys, 2747 Sherman Ave., #12, Ventura, CA 93003, 805-677-4850, who also graciously did the work at no charge to me or the City. Sub-Surface Surveys is probably the most professional and successful ground penetrating radar company on the west coast, with a California licensed PhD. geophysicist on staff.
Mr. Mairesse wrote his report and provided me with a digital email copy August 15, 2006 (http://restorestmarys.org/Articles/Cemetery final report.pdf). His report states that there are no technological means to scan the depths of the ground beneath the asphalt parking lot because of the 18-24 inches of crushed granite underlayment, a standard industry procedure, that was laid down in 1955 before the asphalt was laid down, masking any grave shafts from being detected, masking everything and anything from being detected. He went on to say that the only way you can certify that there are graves there or not, is by "ground truthing," (manually excavating the suspected grave locations).
I was in the process of putting the Sub-Surface Survey's cemetery parking lot scan report and the IST Laboratories cemetery parking lot scan report up on the Restore St. Mary's website, when I thought I would give Mr. Soto a call to find out what he thought of Mr. Mairesse's GPR report findings, being very contrary to his own.
Mr. Soto was very candid. What he said was shocking. He has a contract with the City to perform all of their GPR scans for a period of 2 years whenever they need someone to do this type of work. He told me that when he presented his "Parking Lot GPR Report, October 05, 2005," to the then Park Supervisor, Jerry Revard, Mr. Revard then explained that if he, Mr. Soto, valued his two-year contract with the City, he would make the changes to the report requested by him. Under oppression, Mr. Soto said he made the changes to his report to read as the Park Supervisor demanded!
In a letter dated February 23, 2006, to Mr. Dekker, Grand Jury Parliamentarian, and received by the Grand Jury February 27, 2006, hand-delivered, Mr. Jerry Revard, Parks Supervisor writes, "In October 2005 IST Laboratory, Inc. was hired to conduct a ground penetrating radar survey of the eastern half of the existing parking lot to look for evidence of any graves. This area corresponds to the upper eastern half of the 110' area the City purchased from the Catholic Church for a recreation center. No evidence of burial was found in this area. This report is also attached. This will allow the consultants to consider the property as burial free in their final design plan. We trust this information addresses the Grand Jury's request for an update since our last report provided in September 2005" (http://restorestmarys.org/images/Memorial Park--follow-up Report 06.pdf).
It is my opinion that with this GPR report of IST Laboratories, the City Council and City Manager have moved ahead with their pre-determined plan.
Kevin Clerici of the Ventura County Star newspaper interviewed Mr. Soto, Mr. Revard and Parks Manager Mr. Montoya for the published article on April, 2006, entitled,"Scan for Grave Sites at Old Cemetery Doesn't Put Issue to Rest," (http://www.restorestmarys.org/Articles/Scan for grave sites.html). The day after this article ran in the newspaper, Mr. Revard personally called Mr. Soto by phone and scolded him for making the comments he did during the newspaper interview and explained that the City was very unhappy with his performance in the newspaper and in general.
Mr. Soto did also mention that he thought that the reprimanding telephone call by Mr. Revard the next day after the newspaper article was published, was very unusual in that 5 days later, Mr. Revard was to end his employ with the City and retire.
My opinion is that Mr. Revard was not acting 'on his own,' that he is actively implementing a pre-determined outcome that his employers demand from him.
When we put on the Civil War funeral re-enactment for the deceased Major General William Vandever buried in this cemetery (May 31, 2004), the City thwarted our flag raising ceremony by physically cutting down the cemetery flagpole a week before the event.
Later, instead of complying with State and Federal cemetery law and restoring this cemetery to it's dedicated purpose, the City invented a "Neighborhood Survey" to poll the local residents as to what they wanted to do with the cemetery (Spring 2005), as if the City is above the State and Federal laws.
Now, in regards to the seven graves being beneath the cemetery parking lot, I believe that the City has conspired to commit fraud, committed fraud and has used oppression to, again, get their pre-determined results with the "Parking Lot GPR Report, October 05, 2005."
The City Manager, Rick Cole, seemed to set the tempo for the pre-determined results four months earlier, of the cemetery parking lot GPR scan when he commented to Michel Cicero, in the VC Reporter, June 29, 2005 article entitled, "Grave Error," he said, "I don't want to be obtuse here, but if people who are now dead have had cars drive over them for 40 years, exactly where is it entirely clear that we have a responsibility to move the asphalt forthwith?"(http://restorestmarys.org/Articles/Grave Error.htm).
It seems that the City has even gone so far as to hand-deliver a letter to the County Grand Jury from Mr. Jerry Revard that goes out of it's way to have the Grand Jury believe that there are no graves beneath the cemetery parking lot (February 23, 2006 letter).
I ask this City Council for a truthful and unbiased criminal investigation into these most recent alleged crimes against the living and the dead.
Our entire campaign is about saving graves, restoring the respect and dignity deserved by our founding fathers interred at this 1862 historic and cultural landmark cemetery. If there is just one grave beneath the cemetery parking lot, the entire parking lot must be removed.
It seems that this City Council will consider nothing. It is time for the City Council to consider themselves.
Sincerely, Steve Schleder
Editor's Note: A condensed version of this "letter" was published in the October 5, 2007 (street date: September 21,2007) edition of the Ojai and Ventura VOICE